Tag Archives: Ireland

5 Reasons to Vote No

There’s a referendum coming up, just in case you didn’t know. The referendum concerns two issues:

  1. Should the age of a Presidential Candidate be lowered from 35 to 21 years of age and;
  2. Should marriage be extended equally to all persons regardless of sex.

The second one, as you would imagine, is gathering more interest. What with it concerning all people having equal rights and all. Here are 5 reasons you should vote No on number 2, maybe even number 1.

  1. You like things just the way they are: Change, why would you change anything at all? You like things the way they are. Everything in its place. Change is scary after all. The fact is that if this passes and we as a country vote Yes then Ireland will slip off the shelf and plunge into the Atlantic…FACT!
  2. Standards of Weddings: If we allow everyone to have equal rights and marry who they love then the fact is that the LGBT community will probably set the standard for Weddings impossibly high. There will be colours and themes that the average Irish man could never dream of or indeed live up to. Look at Panti Bliss for example. That chick knows how to throw a party. Imagine that. Shindigs like the country has never seen before.
  3. Increase in Tourism: Ireland voting No in this referendum will send a clear signal to the world that we are still that country which likes to segregate people, push people to the fringes of society and deny equality to all. We could see an increase in visitors from groups such as the Neo-Nazis, the KKK and perhaps even The Westboro Baptist Church.
  4. Parenting: Voting yes in this referendum might give LGBT people more power to have, raise, adopt and love children of their very own. Two people of the same sex raising a child couldn’t possibly do a good job of that. Never before in human history have we seen two people of the same sex raising a child. Nope, never. It would be a disaster. Like a Mother helping her Daughter raise her child or a Father giving advice to his Son. Imagine a child having two loving Mothers or two adoring Fathers? Awful stuff altogether.
  5. You’re a moron: That’s right. You should definitely vote No if you are a moron. If you believe it is absolutely paramount to deny equality to all people then you should vote no. If you believe that not all people deserve happiness then vote no. If you believe you have the right to interfere in other peoples decisions and who they can marry then vote no.

Ireland is on the verge of change right now. We have some very draconian traditions and laws which quite simply have no place in the modern world. Love is one of those things you don’t choose, it just happens. To live in a country where you are made to feel like a second class citizen because you are denied a basic right afforded to others must be heart breaking and utterly demoralising.

I became a father recently. My little girl is on the verge of turning 6 months old. I want nothing but happiness for her in her future. If she grows up and decides that she would like to marry the love of her life then I hope she can do so without impediment. It shouldn’t matter if that person is a male or a female, it should only matter that she loves them and that they love her.

I’ll be voting Yes in this election. My generation and the generations before me still refer to people as straight people, gay people, lesbian people, transgender people and bisexual people. Maybe a yes vote will take us one step closer to my Daughters generation just having people. One big group of happy people.

Hiking Tips

I like the auld bit of hiking. The whole thing of getting outdoors and pushing yourself. It’s a great mix of nature and exercise. When you’re doing it you’ll often see other hill-walkers and climbers and you’ll exchange a pleasant hello and maybe a bit of banter. Then you encounter the people who don’t do it as much and you’d almost have to pay them to talk to you.

The first group are grand. They’re friendly and welcoming and usually share the same interests. Mainly being the love of getting out. They’ll also have a common look about them. They’ve got the gear and they genuinely look happy about being out. If you’re planning on getting into hill-walking or climbing the bigger mountains there are a couple of things you should put on a checklist;

  • Clothing: Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions. Head to any of the many outdoors shops around Ireland and you’re sure to pick up proper pants, t-shirts, jumpers, jackets and socks. They’ll make a big difference to your morale and indeed your safety. In winter time and in cooler weather warm and appropriate clothing could be the difference between a successful climb and an accident. Hats, gloves, scarves should all be in your bag. Bring spares as well. Spare socks and tops are the big ones, but try fit some spare pants in there too.
  • Footwear: Invest in decent boots. Decent boots will pay dividends in protecting your feet and keeping you steady on the rocks. Don’t just buy the cheapest or indeed the most expensive pair. Try them on, see if they support your ankle and the sole of your foot. These two things will be most likely to bother you on a hike. Also, try and make sure they’re waterproof. Mountains and hills tend to have rivers, bogs, large ponds. Soggy socks will ruin your day. Gators are handy too.
  • Equipment: Walking poles are extremely handy. Especially on windy days and on longer hikes. They are very effective in helping you climb and keep your balance. Know how to use them. When you should keep them shorter and when they should be longer. They’ll also make for handy splints if you or one of your party hurts something in a fall or slip. Bring a compass and map and do your best to keep orientated on your hike. Electronic GPS devices are cool and all but can be absolutely useless. Try and do a bit of research on your route as well. Do not rely on your phone for anything but calling for help.
  • First Aid: Bring a basic first aid kit. Plasters, scissors, bandages, that kind of thing. You may not need them but somebody else who is injured may need them. They weigh very little so why not bring them.
  • Supplies: Food and water are the big ones, especially the liquids part. For the longer hikes you will sweat and need hydration so try bring between 1.5 and 3 litres of water. Some lucozade can also be a good pick me up. Soft drinks though are mostly useless and work against your energy levels and hydration. Brings snacks and a main snack for when you reach your peak. Fruit, sandwiches, tins of tuna are all good choices. A hot drink in a flask can also boost you on the trip. Toilet paper. Bring toilet paper. You never know when you’ll need it, but surely it’s one of those things you’d rather not miss having.
  • Talk: Tell people where you’re going and roughly how long you’ll be. That way if you get injured or stranded you shouldn’t be missing for too long. If you’re driving try not to hide your car when you park it, that way people will have a good indication as to where you started.
  • Bag: why bring all that nice dry stuff and then bring a bag that will soak up the water like a sponge. A good waterproof bag will cost you between €30-€50 and will come with a cover for when (WHEN) it rains. Try go for a 33/35 litre bag, they’re the perfect size. Lots of places to put all your stuff.
  • The Weather: The weather rules, you will not beat it. Look at the forecast. If it’s not too bad you’re good to go. If it’s to be particularly poor then maybe choose a different hike or less challenging route.
  • Plan: Have a plan (at least a rough one). Know where you’re going, what to expect, when the sun goes down, the basics really. Plan to bring what you need. Don’t go crazy though, there’s no point lugging a massive pack around if you’re only out for a relaxing hike.

The last time I went hiking with a small group there was a wind warning in effect and on a mountain or a hill you really feel that. I was fine. I was snug in my ski pants, jacket and 2 layers underneath with my hat, gloves and scarf. I was astounded and shocked by the people I saw coming up as I headed back down, the second group of people you encounter on days out. There was one group of ladies with no jacket between them all wearing a t-shirt and yoga pants with flat runners. It was a recipe for disaster and on the way down I could hear it in them.

One lady complained that she couldn’t feel her hands and nearly started crying. I don’t blame her. As she was saying that her friends where leaving her there. Which was in particularly poor form as the one lady with a small bottle of water had passed me already. They were clearly not prepared for the day that was in it and the climb ahead. I also once encountered two hikers who had relied on their GPS, which failed them. They went a long way in the wrong direction. Luckily for them it wasn’t too late to correct their mistake.

In not preparing in even the slightest way they were putting themselves at risk. In doing that they were putting others in harms way. If we’ve seen anything over the past few months it is that there is a network of brave volunteers out there who are prepared and ready to go rescue and help people who get stuck or injured. Yes, sometimes the shit just hits the fan and you need to get help. However, I can’t help but get the feeling that they wouldn’t have to go out so much if people just got the basics right.

So…KISS. Keep it simple stupid. Plan ahead and try avoid the hassle of making the news. Try not to go beyond your abilities. Over time you will be able to do more, but take it easy. Most importantly, get out there and enjoy yourself. Take in the fresh air, the sights and the relaxing feeling that comes with putting your boots on the ground.

Please do share your own tips in the comments below. What would you add in?

Modern Marketing

Marketing, it has really changed beyond recognition and beyond what it used to be. The theory was that you developed the campaigns, you initiated the roll out of the campaign, you managed it and you accepted the kudos when you compiled the metrics to prove your campaign worked. However, it doesn’t really work like that anymore, does it?

The fact is that your marketing department doesn’t even show up for work, will probably never sit behind a desk in your offices and you probably won’t even pay them a cent. But they are absolutely invaluable to you. Thanks to the ever increasing use of smartphones and tablets in the Irish market they are now more empowered than they have ever been. The truth is that your most influential marketing people are sitting behind their screens and contemplating what value your brand brings to their lives. They are posting on Instagram, twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and every manner of sharing site. It is now easier than it ever has been for your market to shout about you for all the world to hear. Be careful though, they’re shouting good and bad things!

Marketing used to be the thing which led the customers purchasing decisions, now the customers are taking charge of that experience. It may be time to accept that marketing is no longer in the hands of the companies, but is now in the hands of the consumer. So what is marketing now? It’s getting people talking and getting them to recommend the experience. Surely modern marketing is about getting all your potential and existing consumers to become your brand ambassadors.

The marketing world is going to have to accept that consumers are now leading the experience and are no longer being led by it or even to it. They are listening, but have become numb to the messages from the brands, they are listening to each other. That is empowering and they are realising how empowering. Instead of trusting your word for how delicious your food is they’re checking with their friends or they’re checking what people online are saying.

Modern marketing is now more of a customer care experience than a sales pitch. Unfortunately it’s no longer good enough to simply keep shouting about how good you are. You have got to treat your customer like they are worth their weight in gold, brand gold. They are your message, they are your billboard, they are your radio ad, your TV spot and your social media marketing. Give them a reason to talk and they will talk. Make your brand worth discussing and make it approachable. Most importantly, make it for the people who are going to be involved with it. If your brand can give people a total customer experience then you are already marketing yourself. A simple hello and smile at the door, or however you greet your consumer, will pay more dividends then 1,000 leaflets dropped through letterboxes.

Modern marketing must take in the traditional ethos of the Customer being King, while remembering that they have a mass communication device no more than 30 seconds away from their fingertips. Never before has the ordinary person in the street had such a powerful voice and ability to make or break a brand. Treat the people well, get them talking, make them the brand ambassadors and they’ll even pay you for the pleasure. The power is with the people.

With all that in mind, you need to shake up your brand, your marketing department is talking!

5 Good Things

All too often I concentrate on the negative things. The negative things about myself and the negative things going on around me. I’m going to try something new. I’m going to try and concentrate on some good things about me and good things going on around me.

So here ya go, just what you’ve been waiting for, 5 good things about me:

  1. I am well educated: I get hung up on the education thing. I did not do well in school. However, since then, I did educate myself and I did find the motivation to pull my thumb out of my ass. I have many letters after my name. Among them are MBS. I completed my Masters in Marketing from DCU Business School in 2010. That was an important personal and educational milestone to reach. Especially so considering I had a teacher in school who convinced me I could do no better than a C in ordinary level English in the Leaving Cert, that was a knock to the confidence and a pretty horrible thing for her to say. I got an A1 in the end.
  2. I have jumped (fallen) out of a plane: I did this mostly to see what it was like. I did this four times and loved it each time. It made me believe that I’m either very brave or very stupid, I’m still not sure. I’m glad I had the balls to get into the plane, leave solo, plummet towards the Earth and keep the head. Again, a big milestone.
  3. I have climbed two of the highest peaks: In Ireland, nowhere else, just yet. I know I still have two to go. However, it’s nice to know I can set my sights on something and do it. It’s important to know that you can keep going even when your body is screaming at you to stop.
  4. I have a wife and child now: It’s nice. It’s a lot of pressure. Sometimes you don’t know what the hell is going on (with the child mostly (just kidding dearest wife)). It’s nice to have people in your life who you know are a massive part of yours and that you are a massive part of theirs. I make my wife smile and laugh and my 3 month old daughter is starting to laugh at with me too. I can make people happy just by being there and that is a very good thing.
  5. I am strong: OK, this is a very simple one but it’s always nice to be strong. It’s comforting to know that you can be the heavy lifter in the house.

So there’s 5 things which are good about me. When you’re getting bogged down by all the negative thoughts running through your head then maybe it’s time to take a step back grab a piece of paper and just write down 5 good things about yourself. If you can’t do it then maybe ask someone else to.

No matter how much of a bad guy you believe yourself to be there will always be redeeming features. It may seem a little self indulgent, but sometimes you really do need to concentrate on yourself before you lose yourself.

Couch to 5K – Day 4

Well, that was hard. My good lady did an early run yesterday so I was flying solo on this brisk and foggy night. My word, that made a difference, the whole not having someone to chat with. I didn’t think it would make a difference, but I guess it’s a mental thing.

The rounds were upped tonight and the whole time I had a thought in the back of my head! The next time the whistle blows I’m throwing in the towel. Funnily enough I think that made it slightly easier to get through each one.

Another thought recurring in my head was my little 11 week old daughter. It’s not fair on her to have a Dad who risks his health by not exercising his body. I want to be around for her for a good long time.

You see, earlier I scared the crap out of myself and weighed in. The grand total was a very worrying 17 stone. What I have now is a combination fit for disaster. My fitness is the lowest it has ever been while my weight is the highest. That situation needs to be reversed. Hopefully this couch to 5k will set me on the right path for a long and healthy life.

I did get through in the end. The legs were still sore and the back still ached. It’s for the greater good though, right? The greater good. I have to keep remembering that no matter how slow I jog, I’m still going faster than I would be on the couch.

Ireland may not be ready to face up to its health problem, but I am. All you can do is watch this space for more info. Hopefully this might spur someone on to make the change they need to.

Couch to 5K – Day 3

Ok, so day 3 was on Tuesday, but I’ve been busy so here’s a quick update before day 4 tonight!

It was cold, wet, windy and the track was waterlogged and filthy so day 3 wasn’t easy. Add to that the fact that my shin splints kicked in and you have a proper combo to knock the motivation out of you. Basically day 3 was hard and probably my tipping point. Ya know, the point at which you either stop or persevere.

It was hard. The runs were longer and we hadn’t a clue what way it was working. There must’ve been a busy schedule that night as the instructions were rushed and the instructors all had a different view of what was happening on the night. My good lady’s knee was also at her.

So, to sum up again. Cold, wet, filthy and sore, we weren’t loving it.

Then I noticed one of the guys there. Now, you have many different types of runners and joggers and walkers there. The more seasoned people fly past you, the ladies who have been doing this for years saunter on by while having their weekly chats and people like me just try to get better each time. Then I saw this big guy who was really putting his all into it. He motivated me. I thought to myself that as hard as I was finding it, how hard was he finding it? So I shut myself up with the moaning and just kept trying.

I’ll go back tonight and see how I do. But I do know one thing. If I don’t put the effort in now then it will only ever get harder.

Best Little Country

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about Ireland becoming the best little country in the world in which to do business. That, in my opinion, is an error. It translates to me as “Ireland should be the best little country in the world to do business…right now…but feel free to go somewhere else in 10 years”.

I think our priorities are all wrong. Ireland should try and be the best little business in the world. That way we might look at a sustainable future and concentrate less on small wins in the short term. It may even help remove the petty politics and poor decision making which have left us a battered nation.

If one where to examine the issues which plague the country at present then you would have to explore the possibility of treating this little island of ours as a business. Consider the following 3 problem children;

  1. The HSE: The dreaded HSE. In its current form it is not fixable. It is in essence beyond hope. It is that way because it has been allowed to be that way. There is unfortunately an underbelly in the HSE which is happy with the way things are and which has no desire to see the organisation change and evolve in the way it so desperately needs to. Our hospitals are at breaking point. The doctors, nurses, midwives, support medical staff and paramedics are giving their all and are really at the point where they can give very little more. They are doing a wonderful job under very hard working conditions and they are seeing very little return for their investment. Now, the problem is not with the people on the ground doing the job, but the people at the top of the ladder throwing the muck down on them. Think about the HSE like a business. Would it be allowed to continue? Would the current chain of management be allowed to stay in their very well paid jobs? Would the doctrine which dictates every archaic and disastrous decision be allowed to remain?
  2. Irish Water: Where to start. Irish Water, which is State Owned yet seeks no advice or conducts no research before implementing its own decisions is a disaster. It was set up with the one original overriding objective of securing the water supply and infrastructure for said supply for Ireland going into the future. Thus far it seems to have abandoned that idea in lieu of gratuitous perks for its own staff. For unnecessary water meters which will fail before 2030. For laughing yoga retreats for its staff. For unnecessary and costly breaches of data protection. In short, it seems the only future Irish Water has secured is its own. If it were a private entity completely culpable to its shareholders would it be allowed to continue in its current guise? Would it be allowed to abandon its original mission in order to pursue its own interests? Would it be allowed to make mistake after mistake without being gutted and restarted? Would it be allowed to ignore the calls of its shareholders?
  3. Politics: It’s a general one alright, but it is a problem child all the same. Political games and name calling are ruining Ireland. Politicians are far too busy scoring cheap shots off each other to recognise that Ireland is on the cusp of disaster. Its people are desperate. History has taught us that desperate people make desperate decisions. Both World Wars are prime examples of this. Closer to home you need only look at the volunteer ranks of the IRA and how they rapidly grew in Northern Ireland in the 1970’s. In all cases nothing else was working so the people thought they’d listen to the lads who sounded mad a few years ago. While Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour trade tacky and inane insults the people lose their patience. While they deeply analyse each word their opponent utters there are people lying and dying on trolleys in our overwhelmed hospitals. They talk about job creation and skew the unemployment figures while the young people think of emigration and become ever more disillusioned with a system which only talks a talk full of empty promises. If the government was a business entity completely answerable to its shareholders would it be allowed to continue with its current board? Would the shareholders stand for all the broken promises? Would they stand for all the spin talk? Better still, would they really choose the same people to represent them the next time around? The big giant issue with Politics in Ireland is that they are all gathered around the same pot, eating the same meal and singing from the same hymn sheet. One talks job creation while the next talks about creating jobs. Even Lucinda and Eddie have missed the point. Lucinda is the shunned Fine Gael poster girl. Her public views will change to reflect her unemployment fears. The issue with who we have to choose from is that they are all the same underneath. They are just wearing different colour shirts.

I know there may be a certain level of apprehension in relation to the concept of Ireland being thought of as a small business as opposed to a small country. If we all were to be considered as shareholders and stakeholders and not merely voters then maybe we might be able to enact the change we so desperately need. Maybe we might attract the right people to the right positions. What we need are balanced and experienced people with the necessary skill set to truly get Ireland on the road. We need the people who say little and do a lot. We don’t need the same old same old. We don’t need the guy who promises to fix your fence for a vote taking up a seat on Kildare street. We need the people who can cut the dead wood from the problem children and ensure that we can keep this great train of ours on the tracks. The people who I believe can do that are afraid of putting their necks on the line. They are, in my opinion, afraid of the stagnant machine which is the Irish Governmental system. With that in mind, maybe it’s time to stop the train and change tracks? We are acutely afraid of failure. Maybe it’s time our country failed so we could start anew. Iceland failed. Go to Iceland. There is very little to be afraid of there. The Icelandic people hold their heads high. They made the difficult choices and came out the other side all the better.

We didn’t make the difficult choices. We bailed out people who should have been placed on bail awaiting trial. We accepted our politicians are corrupt. We continue to accept they are serving their own needs and do little about changing it. We fear what is different and unknown. The known is slowly killing us, so maybe it’s time to delve into the unknown? At the moment our beautiful little country is formed on a rust ridden Republic and we are merely painting over the rust. When a building is damaged beyond repair you don’t move your family in and hope for the best. You knock it down and start again.

Best Little Country awards are all well and good. The problem with little countries is that they have very little margin for error. A little change for a business invested here will affect massive changes on our people.

A small business now that can grow and adapt. Small businesses have to think about what they’re going to do 20/30 years down the line. Small businesses are not solely obsessed with 4 year time frames. They have to think about keeping their workforce happy. They have to think about delivering results on their promises. They have to worry about the people who support them. They have to worry about keeping the books in order and in the black. Think about the people who have crippled this country with their ill thought out decisions. They had very little to lose. They were still walking away financially secure until the end of their days. They were not accountable for their inept choices and abhorrent behaviour.

A small country run by politicians with a 4 year life span? Seems like small vision leading to limited success. A small country run like a small business. That is a breeding ground for other small businesses and entrepreneurs.

We need to pull ourselves out of this slump and not continue to allow ourselves to be pulled down any longer. It’s much easier said than done but we need to face into the unknown and try something new. We need to find our pride again. We need to find our reason for being. We have gotten used to being stood on. We have paid and we continue to pay for the mistakes of others time and time again. It is time to be brave and start again.

Our future is unwritten. I don’t know about you, but I need a new story.